As a fitness instructor, you have to be the personification of motivation. You have to put on a smile, get everyone excited and get people moving. Even when you’ve had a terrible, no good, very bad day. (Like, even when your college boyfriend breaks up with you and you’re devastated … ask me how I know.) But while emotional pain totally sucks, I cannot fathom coaching or teaching an exercise class while being in unrelenting pain day after day. But that’s exactly what Amanda Young has done.
Amanda — fitness expert with AcaciaTV and social worker — has Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN), which has also been called the “Suicide Disease” because it’s so painful. To build awareness and to help find a cure, Amanda is the, well, face, of Face the Change. See her incredible story below or here.
We got the chance to talk to Amanda one-on-one for an incredible look at what this amazing woman is doing for the health of others — despite all the pain she goes through.
Q&A With Amanda Young
Did you grow up in a fit household? What led you to a career in fitness?
I was always an active child, from dance classes to piano, then crew team in high school. The one constant in my life was my chronically ill mother who struggled with different ailments the majority of her adult life. Having spent so much time with her, I learned from her giving nature.
I admired her resiliency and constant positivity. She served as an inspiration not only to me, but to all the other people who crossed her path; even strangers in hospitals while she was receiving chemotherapy. She made me want to be that forgiving and generous person. She inspired me to become a social worker. I loved the idea of being able to help others live a life of happiness and fulfillment.
It just so happened that I had an opportunity to teach fitness early on in college. That also clicked for me. It was the perfect life balance that I always wanted to achieve: a healthy mind, body and spirit. The two careers seemed to meld perfectly.
It must be very challenging to teach when you’re in pain. Tell us about TN. When did it first strike? And, what do you want our Fit Bottomed Girls readers to know about it?
Things changed shortly after my mom passed away from cancer. I was teaching a group fitness class in 2008 when I felt the most excruciating shock across my face. As I removed the microphone I was wearing thinking it [shorted out], I realized there was something very wrong.
For the last eight years, I have been fighting Trigeminal Neuralgia, a disorder that causes extreme, shock-like facial pain. The episodes last from a few seconds to two minutes. I hid the disease from the world, living in fear: fear of how much pain I would be in when I woke up, tried to eat, wash my face, fear that if people knew, they would treat me differently, fear that if they knew but couldn’t see the pain that they would think I was lying, fear the disease would define who I was as a person.
I still loved my work and remained a positive person regardless. For info and to donate to TN research, go here.
You teach everything from boot camp to Zumba. Do you have a favorite workout when you’re not teaching?
Teaching all types of fitness classes from boot camps to Zumba gives me great joy and fulfillment. Knowing that I am somehow effecting positive change in someone’s life helps me get up each day and live; truly live.
We love your workouts on AcaciaTV. How do you tailor the workouts for the home user vs. the gym goer?
I still teach fitness whenever my body allows. In many ways teaching gives me a platform to inspire others and by doing so, I often forget about the pain (until after it’s over!).
The workouts I’ve created for AcaciaTV are as varied as the workouts I teach in NYC. Variety is the spice of life, plus our bodies thrive on ALL kinds of movement. Some days I just want to dance. I especially love hip hop. Other days I crave that empowered feeling I get from boot camp workouts. I love the exchange of energy I get in my live classes. With AcaciaTV, it’s so rewarding to be able to teach people all over the world and get fan mail from people I’ve never even met. It’s definitely the best of both worlds. Acacia TV has given me the opportunity to share my passion with others and reach a greater network of people, and for that, I’m truly grateful.
What’s your advice for someone who may always have chronic pain?
I came to terms with the fact that I could not do all the things I wanted to do the way I wanted to do them. Once I was able to let go of the expectations I had set for myself, I was able to find a way to re-shift my goals and dreams. I am now starting an awareness campaign about TN to create a positive change from an activist standpoint, in hopes of finding a cure. My eventual goal is to start a life-coaching program for people living with chronic pain. The physical and emotional tolls affect not only us but also our loved ones. It is important to honor both of those aspects. Our bodies tell us when we really need to slow down, and as long as we keep our minds positive, we can stay focused on the road ahead (or the next minute as sometimes that case may be!).
I think the take-away message for readers is simple. Be committed to your goals, but not attached, as they often shift. They are still attainable in some way; though not always they way you imagine. Be forgiving of yourself and others. None of us are perfect, and we must allow ourselves to feel and process both pain and emotions. You can still live a fulfilling life no matter what obstacles you face.
Wanna work out with Amanda? (We do!) Be sure to check out her organization here and help make a change! —Jenn